Interviews

SCREEN DAILY“It’s a really fucking scary time to be alive,” comments Star Wars’ leading lady Daisy Ridley about the first days of Donald Trump being president of the US. The actress recently attended the anti-Trump women’s march in London, calling it “an incredible show of democracy”.

Ridley is deeply passionate about tales of female empowerment; from her breakthrough role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens to the her latest film, the Bafta-nominated documentary The Eagle Huntress, which she narrates and exec produced.

Screen sat down with Ridley to discuss the doc, which is the story of a 13-year-old girl in Mongolia who is attempting to become the first female eagle hunter in her country. She also updated on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, talked having to audition for Murder On The Orient Express, and had her say on Piers Morgan’s recent spat with Ewan McGregor.

Screen: How did you get involved in The Eagle Huntress?
Daisy Ridley: Morgan Spurlock came on as a producer after Otto [Bell, director] had done the initial shoot. He got in touch with my agent and said he wanted me to watch it. I watched it, was blown away and said I’d love to be involved somehow. I came on as exec producer and then – Otto initially had title cards in it but wanted to narrate it for younger kids – so I then narrated it too.

What did being executive producer involve?
I mean it’s a glorified spokesperson. I am taking credit for something I really haven’t had much to do with. It has been my pleasure, basically, to spread the news.

Do you see yourself using your star power in the future to help out smaller films like this?
When I came on, I wasn’t like ‘Hey, let ME make this a big thing’. It would have done amazingly with or without my help. I don’t plan. If something else came along that touched me in the same way and I could be involved in it, then great.

What did you love about the film?
It was mainly the relationship between Aisholpan [the film’s subject] and her father. The world we’re living in is terrifying and [it’s great] to watch something that for an hour and a half takes you out of yourself and shows you something about somewhere that none of us really knows. It’s incredible how everything is so divisive at the moment – what colour your skin is, what religion you are – and to watch a film that’s set in the back end of Mongolia, that made me think: ‘oh my God, her dad reminds me of my dad’.

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Interviews

EMPIRE – A new documentary is out this week, and it features a voice you may be familiar with. The Eagle Huntress tracks the story of 13-year-old Aisholpan, the first female eagle hunter in Kazakhstan, and it boasts a narration from Star Wars’ Daisy Ridley. We spoke to Ridley about how she became involved with a low-budget documentary – as well as the obligatory Star Wars questions.

How did this film first enter your radar?
I actually didn’t know how it had entered. My agent sent it to me – and it’s now been revealed that [executive producer] Morgan Spurlock sent it to my agent. I watched it and was totally blown away by it. I watched it that evening and was like [puts on crying voice] “oh my God, how can I be part of this?” So I was on a call with Morgan and Otto [Bell, The Eagle Huntress director] later that week, which was the night before the film’s Sundance premiere. Initially I just came on as executive producer, and then they wanted to edit it a bit, to make it slightly more accessible to kids – just because there’s a lot going on. Just those little…Otto describes them as “hand holds”. So I was able to narrate too!

What was it like to narrate the film? A day in the recording booth must be easier than running around with lightsabers.
You know what? It was really hard! I think I speak for like five minutes altogether, maybe less – and it took a good three, four hours. I’d already done a bit of voice stuff last year [for the English redub of anime film Only Yesterday], and I always found it really knackering. I was doing it with Otto, and it’s his whole thing. I’m such a tiny part of it, I really wanted to do justice to it. I was so nervous about doing a good job. It took a while.

As you say, you’re also credited as an executive producer. What does that involve exactly?
Essentially, it was a way for it to reach people, I guess. I really didn’t do much, and I kind of feel awful taking any credit for it. It has been great, because while I was on social media, I was able to talk about it on social media, and spread the message. That’s really all I’ve done! But I like to feel like I’m a small part of it.

Is this something you’re interested in doing in the future – using your profile to bring attention to smaller films?
It’s funny because I didn’t really think about it in those terms. I just thought, oh my God, what an amazing thing to be a part of. I guess I underestimated the whole profile thing. Yesterday I did this Q&A and it was the first time I thought, oh actually, this is great to be able to bring a bit more attention to it. But I don’t think I go into something just because of that. If I hadn’t have responded so overwhelmingly to the film, I wouldn’t have felt so passionate about becoming part of it. Being part of something like this is incredible. Plus it’s incredible for me. It’s like everyone’s a winner!

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Interviews

TIMEOUT – Did we miss something in ‘The Force Awakens’? This morning, Time Out caught up with ‘Star Wars’ actress and proud Londoner Daisy Ridley to discuss her work as a narrator on superb upcoming documentary ‘The Eagle Huntress’, but we couldn’t help slipping in a ‘Star Wars’ question at the end. Ridley has already revealed that in the as-yet-untitled Episode VIII, due in 2017, we’ll learn a lot more about her character Rey’s mysterious backstory. We asked if it’d feel good to get the secret off her chest – and her answer startled us. ‘I thought a lot was answered in “The Force Awakens”,’ she said. ‘Then after the screening I went for a drink with my agent and everyone, and we were chatting away and I realised that oh, in their minds it’s not answered at all!’

Is she messing with us? Did every audience around the world manage to miss some vital clue? Or are we just reading too much into this still-fairly-cryptic answer? Ridley seems happy to keep things ambiguous: ‘I think curiosity is a wonderful thing,’ she told us. ‘And I do find it quite funny that people keep asking about it. Just yesterday a guy asked to take a picture with me, and went “Is Luke your Dad”? And I was like, “chill out, you’ll see”!’ So does she think people are going to be surprised when they find out the truth? ‘I’d love to see the look on people’s faces,’ she says. ‘But with answers come more questions, and there’s definitely going to be enough to keep people going for another two years!’

One thing that is in no way ambiguous is Ridley’s enthusiasm for the upcoming Episode VIII: ‘It’s going to be great,’ she told us, in no uncertain terms. Fingers, tentacles and lightsabers crossed that she’s right…

Interviews

A documentary about a teenage Mongolian girl’s quest to become an eagle hunter – a skill normally passed down from father to son – is released in the UK next week.
Its narrator and executive producer is the young British actor Daisy Ridley, who shot to fame as Rey in the latest Star Wars film ‘The Force Awakens’.

Daisy told the Today programme about her experience on Star Wars and if veteran stars Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher had offered any advice.

Interviews

MTV – Seeing Star Wars heroines Rey and Jyn Erso together on a poster for the first time was enough to make us go all teary-eyed. Knowing that Daisy Ridley and Felicity Jones recently got together in London over tea to discuss galaxies far, far away? Well, that’s the stuff dreams are made of. We’re just a little upset we weren’t invited.

“We talked for hours, and we just talked really quickly and really intensely to each other,” Jones told Josh Horowitz during MTV News’ Facebook Live with Jones and her Rogue One co-star Diego Luna. “Obviously, it’s difficult because you can’t really talk to your friends or family about it because we’re keeping the story mysterious, so it was really nice to actually sit down with someone and be able to share the entire experience.”

So this definitely means that Ridley knows how Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ends, right? Ridley previously told MTV News that she spent a day on the Rogue One set, where she met Jones briefly, but it wasn’t until Jones was preparing for the Rogue One press tour that they actually made plans for a cuppa outside of Pinewood Studios. That’s when the fangirling really started. “I thought she did such a superb job,” Jones said. “She was excellent.”

As for that popular, albeit completely groundless, theory that Jyn is Rey’s mom, Jones took it in stride — well, kinda. “It’s kind of the worst thing,” she said. “An actress over 30 never wants to think of herself as a mother.”

Interviews

THE ECONOMIST – There has been a lot of discussion about women in film recently, and although it is glaringly obvious that the industry still has a problem with gender equality and diversity, I’ve been so fortunate that my experience has been very different.

What I have noticed is the lack of female talent in technical roles on set. Although film sets have a wonderful mix of brilliant men and women behind the camera—in costume, hair and make-up departments in particular—in areas like cinematography there are incredibly limited numbers of women. In fact, in 2015, only 3% of cinematographers on the top 100 films were women.

As a young woman starting my film career, I know I’m fortunate to be doing so now. I’m lucky to be surrounded by brilliant women, both personally and professionally, and to be part of a franchise that continues to break down barriers of gender and race in front of the camera. The fight for gender equality rages on but things are changing, little by little.

The Walt Disney Company has, for example, put some great incentives in place to bolster equality and diversity behind the camera. The British Film Institute is encouraging young, diverse talent with grants and training schemes, and independent production companies are setting up their own programmes to help create a more diverse industry. I hope that, in 2017, those young women who may once have been dissuaded from working in (up until this point) typically “male” positions are encouraged to train and take apprenticeships in these brilliant roles.

Interviews

YAHOO – When The Eagle Huntress premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 24, one of Hollywood’s biggest breakout stars was quietly plotting to use her newfound fame to help make it soar. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was still burning up the box office, but Daisy Ridley had turned her attention to Otto Bell’s subtle yet gorgeous and moving documentary about a teenage girl in a remote Mongolian village who bucks generations of tradition and becomes her community’s first female eagle hunter.

By the time the film hit international film festivals over the summer, explanatory title cards had been replaced by narration from Ridley, who also signed on as an executive producer. The 24-year-old Brit knew that fandom she earned for her revelatory turn as Rey, the face of the rebooted Star Wars universe, could help bring attention to a remarkable real-life, 13-year-old Kazakh heroine named Aishoplan Nurgaiv. Ridley was right. For evidence, look no further than the very interview you’re reading…

It’s very cool to see you get your Morgan Freeman on as the narrator of The Eagle Huntress.
Thank you so much. I’ll never have a voice like that, though, but it’s nice to try.

You’re also an executive producer on the film. How’d you get involved?
Morgan Spurlock [who’s also an executive producer on the film] shares my agency, and my agent had gotten a hold of the film somehow. This was like a week before Sundance. So I watched it and was blown away, and said I wanted to be a part of it. So we all got on a call — me, Otto, and Morgan — the night before the Sundance premiere. I came on as executive producer, hoping that if I was a part of it, it would reach more people, because it’s such an amazing story. And then they brought up narration, which I jumped at the chance to do. So we [recorded] that in the springtime.

What was it about the film that blew you away?
The main thing for me was the relationship between Aishoplan and her father. I’m super-close to my dad, and my parents have always been really encouraging to all of us, not in an overt, “This is what we’re doing” way, but just because they’re bringing us up to be the best people we can be, in the same way that Aishoplan’s parents are. Her mom seems great, too, but the relationship that’s depicted in this film in particular between those two I thought was unbelievable. And then her kind of quiet determination… She’s not trying to change the world, she just wants to take on this competition, she just wants to train an eagle. And she does that, which I found very moving.

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LENNY – In the frigid steppe, generations of Mongolia’s Kazakh minority have been training eagles to help them hunt. These eagle hunters have always been men, until now: Thirteen-year-old Aisholpan is changing all that. Aisholpan’s father believes she can do anything her brothers can do, even though there’s been pushback from the older generation of hunters about her groundbreaking skill.

The documentary The Eagle Huntress follows Aisholpan as she captures and trains an eagle and travels to the Golden Eagle Festival to compete against exclusively male hunters. The film is narrated by the actress Daisy Ridley, of Star Wars fame, who spoke to Aisholpan for Lenny about why she wanted to be an eagle hunter, what it was like to be the first girl at the festival, and her dreams for the future.

Daisy Ridley: Why did you want to be an eagle hunter?
Aisholpan: From a very small age, I wanted to do this. Because I was helping my father when he was training his eagle, and I loved to go with him in the mountains when he was hunting eagles.

DR: Did anyone else at the school that you went to while the film was being shot want to be an eagle hunter?
A: After I became an eagle hunter, everyone thought it was really cool, and they asked me if they could be eagle hunters too. They want to know how they can keep eagles at home, what they eat.

DR: How was it when you first caught the eagle? How did it feel?
A: I was sure I could get the eagle on the first time because my father was an expert and we were watching it so closely. We knew the exact time we could catch it.

DR: Is your eagle a female? Because I’ve heard that female eagles are easier to catch than males — is that true?
A: Usually females are bigger and more aggressive and stronger, so that’s why we only hunt female eagles.

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Interviews

COLLIDER – One of the perks with being the lead in a Star Wars movie is you can help a small independent film get seen by more people. The fact is Otto Bell’s great documentary, The Eagle Huntress, would have a tough time getting press in mainstream publications even though it’s a fantastic story. But with Daisy Ridley narrating and executive producing the film and willing to get out there and do press to promote it, you have a lot more people willing to cover the film and thus greater exposure.

If you’re not familiar with the story, The Eagle Huntress follows a 13-year-old girl named Aisholpan as she trains to become the first female in twelve generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter. In addition to her quest, she has to take on the close-minded elders who believe women should not be involved in their ancient tradition. But with the help of her father, Nurgaiv, who believes a girl can do anything a boy can, she sets out to take on the establishment and compete in the Golden Eagle Festival, where she faces off against 70 of the greatest Kazakh eagle hunters in Mongolia.

During my interview with Daisy Ridley, we talked about how she got involved in the film, what it feels like to know her involvement will help The Eagle Huntress be seen by more people, how the bond between Aisholpan and her father meant a lot to her, auditioning for Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express, the Star Wars toys backlash when Rey was missing from a lot of the early Force Awakens toys, how Hasbro is fixing their mistakes, working with Rian Johnson on Star Wars: Episode VIII, and a lot more. Check out what she had to say below.

Collider: Let’s start with the most important thing, can you still go food shopping or is it all gone?
RIDLEY: Yeah, yeah. I can still do that.

So you have the best of both worlds.
RIDLEY: For sure.

That’s amazing.
RIDLEY: Yeah. When people stop me they’re very nice, it doesn’t happen that often. Usually I’m so confused as to why they’re stopping me, it takes me a couple of seconds to get over it. So I probably look something like, “What have I done!?” But it’s all good.

I think if people heard you talk though…
RIDLEY: Usually it’s either when I laugh or when I talk that people are like, “huh.”

I’m listening to you talk right now and I’m like, “Oh yeah.” I would pick that out of a crowd.
RIDLEY: Yeah, especially in America. But also people are just very friendly, so it’s all good anyway.

It’s also because the sun is here.
RIDLEY: Yes, the sun is here. I actually really loves L.A. I think the vibes are great and people tend to be very happy. It’s fantastic.

Because it doesn’t rain.
RIDLEY: I mean, it did rain yesterday.

I swear to you, that’s an anomaly.
RIDELY: But it’s raining again next week.

I don’t believe that.
RIDLEY: I believe it. When it rains, I’m gonna be like, “Hey, told ya”

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